Hawaii kupuna brace for potential cuts under GOP health care bil - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii kupuna brace for potential cuts under GOP health care bill

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii kupuna held their annual "March for Meals" rally at the State Capitol on Tuesday, an event designed to raise awareness about senior hunger and potential cuts to funding for senior services.

"We want our legislators to know that we're real faces of real hungry people," said Noelle Sutherland, of the Wahiawa Wellness Center.

Seniors at the rally say funding is at stake for Meals on Wheels and other services that support seniors.

But some of Tuesday's debate centered upon the GOP's new health care bill.

AARP Hawaii opposes the American Health Care Act because the organization believes it would increase costs and risks for older Americans.

The AHCA is set to replace the Affordable Care Act, more frequently known as Obamacare. In addition to potential funding cuts on the national level, it could leave more than 100,000 in Hawaii who were part of the state's Medicaid expansion -- many of them seniors -- without coverage.

Under Obamacare, the federal government has covered the majority of costs for health care for these individuals.

"Either the state would have to figure out how to cover these 110,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, or you're looking at them not getting any services. That's a drastic number," said Barbara Kim Stanton, director of AARP Hawaii. 

State Rep. Della Au Belatti, who chairs the House Committee on Health, said the state Legislature is considering measures that would help compensate for potential reductions in funding.

"We are looking at bills that will respond to any cuts to the ACA,. or any kind of repeal and replacement," Belatti said.  "But it is a complicated venture."

"The state funding that we receive is very important to us being able to provide to those most in need," added Lori Lau, the Director of the Meals on Wheels for Lanakila Pacific Health. "Our kupuna are home bound, so they're really a group that can be forgotten." 

AARP Hawaii believes that if Obamacare is replaced with the American Health Care Act, it would likely mean the elimination of services at home and in the community that seniors count on.

"What were watching with this proposed American Health Care Act is watching the second shoe drop. You're talking about seniors and their families not able to live the kind of life they deserve," Stanton said.

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